I’ll be travelling for nothing less than 15hours. It’s meant to be a 10-hour journey but put in all the Nigerian factors; bad roads, pot holes, check points that are actually extortion points, car breakdown etc. We will definitely be spending more.
I arrive the park 30 minutes before proposed time for takeoff but move 2 hours later.
I enter into the vehicle and locate my seat, 14. I roger it won’t be a smooth journey, since it’s close to the aisle and a few more passengers will be added along the way, ‘Attachment’ they are called.
A man and woman are arguing behind me, he threatens to slap her, she dares him to try. He rants about her not knowing who he is. She says he is nothing but what all men are “smoke without fire”.
I enter into the vehicle and a chubby woman is seated in a blue dress, chewing loudly at a cub of corn. She breaks it in two and offers me the other half. I shake my head. “Its sweet o” she chews again. “See?” She insists, I take it from her and bite slowly.
“So is he your boyfriend or…” I stare at her, lost.
She points at the window, to my friend who is standing outside pressing his phone. I smile.
“Oh! He is my…”
“My brothers and sisters, let us begin our journey with a word of prayer…” a man interrupts, everybody is calling him pastor. I wonder if he went to a seminary or if he knows about the lost books of the Bible. He urges us to seek God’s forgiveness as we embark or the journey. I look back, everyone’s head is bent.
I think of the last time I kissed my boyfriend, his hand stuck underneath my dress, squeezing my breasts.
‘I’m not a sinner” I say underneath my breath. It wasn’t the kind of thing I was expecting myself to say after the thought of what I had done but it came out and I let it. The woman beside me is chewing at her corn, head bent, face etched on the window as though she was seeing an apparition. She wasn’t praying, I wondered if she knew Jesus, or if God is now forgotten memory to her.
“In Jesus name we have prayed!”
Halfhearted Amens emerged from the lips of the passengers and everyone gets back to eating, to calling their loved ones, to yelling at their kids to behave.
We get to a checkpoint and there’s a girl on the ground, screaming, clutching to the lifeless body of her younger sister who was crushed by a car while trying to sell groundnut. I wish I hadn’t seen it. Exclamations of Jesus and Heya filled the bus but everyone will move on minutes later, the irony.
We get to one of the towns where we are supposed to pick Attachments, Akwanga. A sea of people rush into the bus, struggling for spots on the Aisle, a man came to stand beside me with a worn out office bag. I study his face, he has known suffering, the kind that spells its name across the creases on your face. He smiled apologetically, I nod vigorously and greet him. I’d later find out through a conversation he is having with someone that he has been a bus conductor most of his life. I hug my hand bag and close my eyes. It’s time to sleep, a tap wakes me from my restful state.
“You haven’t told me who he is to you”
It was the woman sitting beside me.
“Oh! He’s my cousin” I lie.
“Yes, we are all each other’s cousins in this country” I don’t know if she meant it as a joke or to spite me. She however gives me a warm smile, I smile back at her.
“Grace is my name, divorcee” she says it with pride.
“I’m Judith” I stammer.
“Enjoy your trip Judith, we’ll talk more as we go, I really like you and I don’t want you to make same mistakes I made with men.” she smiles again, rests her read on her sit and closes her eyes.
“Nigerians and unsolicited advice” I thought as I closed my eyes to sleep as well. The bus was gradually getting silent, everyone was resting their heads where they could.
We’ll all later be awakened by a loud explosive sound and the screams of “Jesus” and Auzubillahi” with fill the bus. One of the tyres in front had a burst, the bus came to a slow stop, in the middle of nowhere. I look around to see it’s a thick bush, I ask the woman beside me where we are, she says she doesn’t know. She doesn’t seem bothered at all. I whip my phone out to call cousin but there is no signal.
“Everybody down!” Voices emerge from both ends of the bush. I feel my heart sink into my stomach and remember mama’s words “Never travel at night” as I put my face to the ground and hold onto Grace’s hands.
by Farida Adamu
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